Monday, May 31, 2010

Menand on Psychiatry

A good talk about the progress (or absence of it) in Psychiatry. Econtalk is often worthwhile.

Thinking about After Method: Part 2

John Law's 2004 book "After Method" discusses how methodologies or practices, can effect and even determine, how we conceive phenomenon. Borrowing heavily from other STS theorists such as Latour and Mol, he argues that attempts to find a single "best" methodology for knowing is impossible and instead advocates utilizing a wide range of metholodogies each of which comes with what he calls its own "hinterland" or unique ontological history. Law casts doubt on the conviction that any thing has a single identity that can be discovered given a proper methodology by appealing to several "thick" ethnographies of various concepts, for which STS is famous for.

At first this seems like a pretty strong version of your garden variety relativism.

However Law emphasizes throughout the book how difficult in practice it is to establish convincing and sustainable methodologies. Reality may be created through practices but, Law insists, that doesn't mean that anything goes.

I'm not sure I buy it.

But on a pragmatic level, because the world, academia included, is so full of people who think their way is the only, or at least the best, way, Law's call for methodological diversity is a welcome one.


Sunday, May 30, 2010

Ginger Honey Ale

Here is what I used in my first batch of beer. The usual home brew batch is 5 gallons (19 liters) but that is a lot of bad beer if it goes wrong so I only made 10 liters.

500 grams of dry malted barely extract
200 grams of honey
100 grams of brown sugar.
15 grams of shredded ginger
half a packet (20 grams?) of hops (I forget the variety).
Packet of Yeast (Frencher)

I made it on Saturday and it was bubbling away happily by Sunday morning. If all goes well by next Sunday I should be able to bottle it.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010


I'll be brewing my first batch of beer next week. Wish me luck. Here is a great tutorial from youtube.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

In the realm of possibility...

So I just had a brief conversation with a Korean man who is convinced that Lee Myung Bak planted the hangul writing found on the torpedo that sunk the Cheonam. This guy is quite sane and ethical otherwise. And he sings great Pansori.
It is amazing the degree to which people can truly believe in things that to other people are absolutely crazy without either on of them actually being crazy.


After Method: Mess in Social Science Research

This is a great book by STS theorist John Law, now at the Open University in the UK. Here talks about the normativity of research methodologies and why it may be preventing us from engaging with the less tractable features of everyday life. Check it out.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Cultural Practices of Cognition

Here is an interesting lecture by Edwin Hutchins, a leading figure in cognitive studies, at the London School of Economics. Here is how they describe it:

"Edwin Hutchins discusses how the shift to seeing cognition as a biological rather than a logical phenomenon presents challenges and opportunities for understanding the relations between culture and cognition."


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Virtual Hands

I want this. Read here about how we will seen be able to manipulate virtual objects with our hands.


Saturday, May 22, 2010

Sloths are cute.

Hat tip to the Chosun Bimbo for this one.

Meet the sloths from Amphibian Avenger on Vimeo.


In brief

-Here is an interesting article on Korean co-management. The labeling is deceiving.
-Panel discussion about the World Cup. Will it perpetuate the stereotype of Africa as a continent of "smiling idiots?"
-I will be back in Malawi July 18-31, here specifically. Anything good in Mzuzu?
-And finally BP is lying out about the flow rate. Should anyone be surprised?


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Gay Couple in Malawi Convicted of "Unnatural Acts"

I unintentionally witnessed the first hearing of this trial while in Malawi in January. This verdict is sad, but not unexpected.

Utilitarian vs. "deep green" views of Nature.

In the book "Complexities: Social studies of Knowledge Practices" Charis Thompson writes an interesting chapter about how scientist's differing views on the value of nature, in this case elephants, shaped the policy prescriptions they espoused on how to deal with the problem of "elephant compression" i.e. too many elephants in too small a place.

In Korea coastal and marine scientists, at least when advising on government policy, are still almost universally utilitarian in their view of nature. National Parks are promoted as tourism opportunities and in any case their boundaries do not stop local communities from extracting natural resources within them. Dadohae National Marine Park is teeming with aquacultural, mostly abalone, farms. In order to clean up marine debris, both from the farms and other maritime activities, MOMAF paid marine resource users to pick it up, though one report on the project's outcomes noted that it had made little progress in persuading them that there was anything inherently wrong with throwing trash into the sea.
One point that Thompson tried to make was that appeals to science cannot resolve management problems and that complex relationships existent between the political, scientific, and cultural realities that can not be neatly disentangled and prioritized.
Therefore the reasons why, and our responses to, the fact that many Korean marine resource users do not see anything inherently wrong with throwing trash into the ocean, or conversely, the fact that most Westerners do, must be approached with an awareness of how political, cultural, and scientific understandings have interacted with each other in specific places and times.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Context Matters; the North Korean example.

So its been over a month since the Cheonan sank and a couple of weeks since military investigators fairly conclusively determined that a deliberate detention of some sort was the cause. And almost every South Korean I have spoken to believes that North Korea did it.

And yet nothing is happening, and it is likely that nothing will. Kim Jong Il was recently welcomed on a rare visit to China.

Can you imagine any other country responding to such an attack with such utter silence and inaction? I can't. Though I hasten to say it is not my place to criticize, or defend, how South Korean's react. And in fact their reaction, given their context, is utterly understandable. Roughly half of South Korea's 50 million people live within 40 kilometers of the North Korean border. North Korea has a huge, if antiquated army, and likely could put together at least a couple dirty nuclear devices. And the Kim regime is unstable and crumbling.

Given this context, what would you do?


Saturday, May 15, 2010

Spontaneous Generations

This is a great Science and Technology Studies journal/blog put together in 2006 and still going strong by graduate students that the University of Toronto.

Friday, May 14, 2010

ZA News

ZA news is funny, check them out.


Thursday, May 13, 2010

So how much does Uncle Sam give the States?

According to this great article on the coastal sand mining business (everybody's favorite topic) in Korea, state governments rely on the national government for over 40% of their budget. This severly limits their independence, which is the whole point.
I've been trying to find out what the situation is like in the United States, without much success, especially since the past year our so have been highly abnormal due to stimulus funds related to the recent finanical crisis. Can anyone point me in the right direction here to find out, on average, how much of U.S. state budgets are supplied by the federal government?

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Four Legacies of Korean Political History

This is from the informative, but assertive and I suspect controversial, introduction to Understanding Korean Politics, published in 2001 and edited by Kil Soong-Hoom and Moon Chung-in.

Legacy number one: A Korea has a very "narrow ideological spectrum." Following the Korean War, a combination of Cold War realities, political dictatorships, and a widespread obsession with economic growth effectively supressed ideological diversity, particularly of the "leftist" variety.

#2. "Authoritarianism." From Confucianism, to Japanese colonial rule, to effective American occupation, to the effective or real dictatorships of Rhee, Park, and Chun, Korea is very familiar with non-democratic forms of government.

#3. "the bureaucratic state" Governance in Korea is dominated by the National government in Seoul which in turn is dominated by the Executive and hence the President.

#4. "the myth of revolution from above" or an obsession with the "study of political leadership." Korean political discourse has focused almost exclusively on the actions of its leaders as opposed to studying institutions, interest groups, or constituencies.

There is a great deal to be gained from understanding Korean politics through these four legacies. But, perhaps ironically, although the authors are seeking to discredit those legacies, by using them as an analytical framework, they are I think, reinforcing a narrative of Korean political history that marginalizes the very actors and events that I would assume them to sympathize with. So although Korean political history has been full of dictators, it has also been full of opposition to them, and just as Korean political discourse has been obsessed with its leaders, it has also has a rich history of despising, distrusting, and evading them.


Sunday, May 9, 2010


This girl is good. She is Zambian but that is all I can find out about here. Anybody know anything more?


Friday, May 7, 2010


These guys from Malawi are good. They are basically talking how great their place is. I agree.


Monday, May 3, 2010

Korean Coastal and Marine Management, where art thou headed?

People protesting the abolishment of MOMAF

Like everything in Korea, Korean coastal and marine management systems have developed in fast-forward mode. And until recently their progression at least superficially mirrored that of the United States and other Western nations. First at the national level most coastal and marine related agencies were centralized, or integrated, into one ministry. In the U.S. this "ministry" is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and in Korea it was the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (MOMAF). Following this laws were passed in the U.S. that attempted to decentralize coastal and marine management authority to the states. And in Korea, though to a lesser extent, similiar laws were passed. However with the election of Lee Myung Bak in 2008, MOMAF was abolished and the various departments under its umbrella were appended back onto other ministries, such as that of Agriculture, and Transportation.
This development has not reached the English language academic literature yet, but it has been extensively covered by Korean media and academics, many of whom were strongly opposed MOMAF's destruction.
It will be interesting to see how this will be spun in the international literature particularly because Korea has always prided itself on being at the "forefront" or "vanguard" of international innovation in coastal and marine management systems development.


Is Germany a democracy?

Europe is in a financial mess. The Greeks are bankrupt and are looking to the rest of Europe to bail them out. Europe relies on Germany in this regard. According to this article, however, 86% of Germans don't want to bail out the Greeks. And yet Angela Merkel has said that Germany is committed to being part of the bailout. I have no idea whether or not a Greek bailout is a good idea, but when 86% of your people don't want to do something how as a democracy can you defend doing it?